A Particular Kind of Black Man

by Tope Folarin

August 2019 – Simon & Schuster (US)

Living in small-town Utah has always been an uneasy fit for Tunde’s family, especially for his Nigeria-born parents. Though Tunde speaks English with a Midwestern accent, he can’t escape the children who rub his skin and ask why the black won’t come off. As he struggles to fit in and find his place in the world, he finds little solace from his parents who are grappling with their own issues. Tunde’s father, ever the optimist, works tirelessly chasing his American dream while his wife, lonely in Utah without family and friends, sinks deeper into mental illness.

Then on an otherwise ordinary morning, Tunde’s schizophrenia-frayed mother wakes him with a hug, bundles him and his baby brother into the car, and makes them disappear from the only home they’ve ever known. But running away doesn’t bring her, or her children, any relief from the demons that plague her. Once Tunde’s father tracks them down, she flees to Nigeria leaving her husband and young children behind. Tunde never feels at home again. He spends the rest of his childhood and young adulthood searching for connection—to the wary stepmother and stepbrothers he gains when his father remarries; to the Utah residents who mock his father for his accent; to evangelical religion; to his Texas middle school’s crowd of African-Americans, to the brothers of his historically black college.

A PARTICULAR KIND OF BLACK MAN is a beautiful and poignant exploration of the meaning of home and identity as seen through the eyes of a first-generation Nigerian-American.

Tope Folarin is a Nigerian-American writer. He is a Rhodes Scholar and won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Miracle.” He lives in Washington, D.C.

Press & Reviews

“Folarin’s tender, cunning debut begins as a realistic story of a boy coming of age in Utah in the 1980s, then slides into a subtle meditation on the unreliability of memory. […] Folarin pulls off the crafty trick of simultaneously bringing scenes to sharp life and undercutting their reliability, and evokes the complexities of life as a second-generation African-American in simple, vivid prose. Folarin’s debut is canny and electrifying.”—Publishers Weekly


“From the breathless first sentence, to the devastating last, this is a particularly mesmerizing kind of novel.”—Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

“Deeply observed and abundant with strange poetry, Folarin’s novel charts a terrifying and radiant journey of growing up in an identity and family that is perpetually in flux. I tore through this book as if in a fever dream… its uncanny reality remained with me long after it was over. —Jenny Zhang, author of Sour Heart

“Tope Folarin’s writing is smart, spry, tender, funny and inventive, much like the unforgettable main character of A PARTICULAR KIND OF BLACK MAN himself. Through this narrative of one young man’s childhood and adolescence, Folarin urges us to think about belonging, family, memory and the very act of storytelling anew. An energetic, accomplished debut.”—Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House  

“A young man grows up distanced from family, country and his beloved mother; so begins the attrition of his sense of self. In this emotionally evocative and immensely moving story, Tope Folarin shows how the need to belong lives first in the heart. By combining the immigrant’s tale with a coming-of-age story Folarin has brought new power to both narratives. He is a writer of talent and great promise.”—Aminatta Forna, author of The Devil That Danced on the Water and Ancestor Stones

“Arresting and insightful, Folarin’s A PARTICULAR KIND OF BLACK MAN is one of those books that refuses to let you go till the very end. Tunde’s world – broken and alive, vivid and painful – bursts from these pages with unforgettable honesty and heart. This is a story about exiles and departures, about the continual search for what has been in front of us all along. A gripping, achingly beautiful debut.”—Maaza Mengiste, author of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze